(photo credit: Nathan Brusovany)
Written by By Ya’akov Shabtai, after the play by Niccolo Machiavelli, Directed
and choreographed by Gilad Kimchi Beit Lessin, February 11
Say “mandragola,” and
audience members shake noisemakers every time a character utters the word.
Mandragola is a production born for major hit status. Mandragola, or mandragora,
or mandrake, is a plant certain to ensure conception among barren women, among
its other magical properties.
Let pretty Lucrezia (Revital Salzman) only
drink a dose of the plant’s essence and she’ll certainly bear the son that her
elderly husband Nicia (Joseph Toledo) so desires.
There’s only one
problem, says Ligurio (Dikla Hadar), the wily marriage broker who’s come up with
the idea: It’s certain death for the man who beds Lucrezia
Thus may lusty young Callimaco (a horse played by Shlomi
Tapiero) bed lovely Lucrezia, and all’s well that ends well in Ya’akov Shabtai’s
sparkling adaptation of Machiavelli’s (1469-1527) Renaissance satire that extols
fraud and trickery for a worthwhile cause – a theme that runs through his
Costumes, makeup, set, music and lighting contribute in great
measure to the success of this production whose wit, energy and, above, all
impudence are encapsulated in the opening number. That lodges us firmly in the
21st century while evoking the manner and style of commedia dell’arte, the
vibrant street theater that emerged in 15th-century Italy and upon whose stock
characters and situations Machiavelli based his comedy.
Kimchi’s easy virtuosity keeps the action bouncing with never a pause; and the
actors, their caricature characters based on animals – Callimaco is a stallion,
for instance – exploit them to the utmost. Outstanding are Tal-ya
Yahalomi-Levi’s randy widow Donna Lisa; Joseph Toledo’s saggy, flabby Nicia; and
Dikla Hadar as snaky, sneaky Ligurio.
Missing from this Mandragola are
changes of pace and vocal variety, so the show gets monotonous in patches – not
that this matters diminishes the overall glitter.